Frontline Heroes: Va. child care veteran kept day care center running smoothly during pandemic

Lisa Matteson is the Director of the Imagination Learning Center in Gainesville, Virginia kept day care services running for parents who were working on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.

EDITOR’S NOTE: During the coronavirus pandemic, there are people throughout the community working on the front lines. WTOP is honoring essential personnel through its Frontline Heroes campaign. Each day, WTOP chooses two nominees, awards each $100 and donates another $100 to Feed the Fight DC, a D.C.-based nonprofit supporting local restaurants, health care workers and first responders during the pandemic. Some of those honorees will be spotlighted on

When the novel coronavirus forced the entire region into lockdown in March, the pandemic didn’t end the need for child care.

Police officers, firefighters and hospital staff, who are also parents, were among the essential workers who still needed the services of a reliable day care — and that is where Lisa Matteson, director of the ImagiNation Learning Center of Gainesville, Virginia, rose to the occasion.

The 27-year veteran of child care knew there was no closing down the center that cared for up to 70 children a day.

“It was very frightening when we first started down this road, because we didn’t know what it looked like or who was really susceptible or if we could keep our staff and our children safe,” said Matteson.

The center’s day care population dropped to about 20 children a day at the height of the crisis. Recently, its numbers have begun to rebound.

Throughout the pandemic, the children and staff stayed safe. Matteson credits the hardworking staff.

“Our staff is amazing in their ability to tamp down on their anxiety, figure out how we can make it work … and make things work for our children and families,” Matteson said.

She’s pleased to be named a WTOP Frontline Hero.

“It’s an honor, it’s absolutely an honor, but the reality is it’s an honor that I share with everyone that I work with,” Matteson said.

Know people who would be good candidates for WTOP’s Frontline Heroes award? Nominate them online, and their actions could be recognized on-air.

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